Debbie Ahearn Discusses Importance of Hand Therapy

Posted on 06/17/2012

ASHT member Debbie Ahearn, a CHT at Willamette Hand Therapy in Oregon, shared her experience specializing in the hand and upper extremity with The Register-Guard. Helping hands Therapist specializes in working from the elbow on down BY RANDI BJORNSTAD The Register-Guard Published: (Monday, Jun 18, 2012 10:14AM For some reason, when people hurt their hands, they often don’t head for help until the pain gets really bad. “I often have patients come in saying, ‘I feel so silly — I’m embarrassed — my hand just hurts a little,’ ” certified hand therapist Debbie Ahearn said. “I tell them, ‘It’s really good that you came.’ Every little bit of pain that you feel in your hand should be checked out, so the injury doesn’t get worse and it doesn’t become chronic.” She’s so convinced that hands are generally underappreciated that Ahearn, whose practice is called Willamette Hand Therapy, offers a free 15-minute hand screening appointment to determine if a person’s problem merits a further look. Hand therapy differs from physical therapy and occupational therapy both in emphasis and education. A certified hand therapist starts out as an occupational therapist or physical therapist but concentrates on the body parts from elbow to fingertips. “You have to practice in occupational or physical therapy for five years plus have at least 4,000 hours in direct hand therapy to become certified,” Ahearn said. “Then you have to pass an exam.” She loves what she does “because the hand is very complex, more than most other parts of the body. The main job of the foot, knee and hip is to bear weight during movement, but we do so many things with the hands — they are extremely important to functioning as a human being. We don’t tend to think about it because the hand and the brain communicate so well together that it seems automatic.” Read the full article